A coalition of seven environmental organisations has expressed concern over new plans for a golf course at Coul Links in East Sutherland.
In June 2022, a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted to The Highland Council, by developer C4C. This notice lets the Council know that the company intends to submit a new planning application for the construction of an 18-hole golf course at Coul Links.
The notice comes just two years after the Scottish Government turned down a previous application because of the damage it would have caused to nationally and internationally protected sites for nature.
Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust spent over four years campaigning to save Coul Links, with more than 13,000 members of the public asking the Scottish Government to call in and refuse the plans for the golf course.
The Conservation Coalition’s concerns about the impact that any development of this type and scale would have on the international and national protected areas at this important place for nature remain unresolved.
They are particularly concerned as the location remains the same as the previous application. Sited within the boundary of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet SPA and Ramsar site and the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest, concern remains that such a development would result in irreparable harm to the complex dune habitat which is home to a wide range of wildlife.
The Coalition contacted the developer, C4C, to outline their concerns in spring 2021, when plans to build the course were publicly announced. Coalition members also expressed concerns to the plans at scoping stage, earlier in 2022.
Bruce Wilson from the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “We are really concerned that the internationally protected Coul Links is once again under threat from a golf course. It’s incredibly disappointing to see that these new plans don’t appear to address the environmental concerns that were part of the previous refusal.
“The Scottish Government refused the last proposal in February 2020 because of the significant impacts it would have had on the international and national conservation designations, adversely affecting wintering and breeding birds, invertebrates, and rare vegetation types – even after mitigation – due to disturbance and habitat loss.
“Since then, part of the dunes at Menie, where Donald Trump was allowed to build a golf course despite many concerns being raised, have lost their protected status due to the damage caused by another insensitive development.
“We are in a nature and climate emergency. Ensuring protected areas are respected is a critical part of tackling these crises. Developers shouldn’t be pursuing environmentally damaging proposals that put Scotland’s special places for wildlife at risk.
“The members of the Conservation Coalition will be considering the proposals carefully before submitting comments. We encourage anyone concerned about saving nature to raise concerns they have through the pre-application process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and contacting their local MSP.”